Monday, November 13, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Shadowrun 5th Edition: Priority Chart - Character Creation Analysis

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Shadowrun is a game that has been around since 1989, only a couple of years before Vampire the Masquerade came out. There were a number of games coming out at that period that were aiming at a grimmer and grittier sort of setting. It merged two genres that at the time were considered something that just didn't fit together: cyberpunk and Tolkien-style fantasy.

Later editions have started to move out of the punk mode and into noir which might not be immediately obvious. When you see a setting described as something-punk then you are looking at common themes. Massively powerful organizations or entities actively working to oppress the common folk is a major part of any punk setting. Moral decay as another one, people in punk settings tend to be more resigned to taking morally questionable acts as it is often a matter of survival. Finally, the characters of punk settings are generally outside the general mold of the rest of the world. They don't quite sync up like a good little cog in the system.

Noir by comparison deals with the dark underbelly of the world that most people do not see. In punk, the average citizen is likely just ground down so much that they don't fight the powers that be which are often amoral or immoral oppressive entities. In noir, the average citizen is likely sheltered from anything too terrible and has a more or less pleasant life while at least some of the powers that be at least make an effort at protecting those below them. The grittiness of noir is in the cracks that the public and official powers aren't equipped to even see well, much less deal with.

Life in Shadowrun is dominated by the corporations, as is the case in most cyberpunk games. They are very much feudal in nature though the technological and business trappings they wrap themselves in give them an impression of capitalism. The national powers of the world have lost most of their ability to curtail the excesses of corporations and even most police forces are corporately funded. The players are mercenaries who are often hired to do things for these corporations outside the public eye. Such a clandestine mission is referred to as a shadowrun, or usually just a run, and the mercenaries are thus referred to as shadowrunners or runners.

As with most of the games coming out at the time, it was a very granular system with many complex rules and this has continued on into the current editions. It has a lot of what I love in character creation systems and a lot of what annoys me in gameplay.

While it doesn't have set classes as such, there are some very clear rolls that are essential to have on hand. You have to have the ability to fight if things go wrong, hence the street samurai. You have to have someway to deal with magic, resulting in the mages and shamans. You have to have a way to hack the matrix, thus the deckers and technomancers. You have to have someone who negotiates for you, thus the faces. In addition to these you have riggers, who specialize in the control of drones and vehicles; and adepts, who use magic to enhance their own abilities rather than cast spells.

In general, you're going to buy towards one of these concepts and trying to effectively hit multiple things is going to be less successful. The gorgon archer we're going to build is likely within that nebulous border area of concepts that become difficult to create with much efficiency in the system. Note this is a system where I've played in the same crew with street samurai who were able to shoot attack helicopters down with arrows...with regularity. However, we're unlikely to have a character so massively competent as we've split up a little. We are going to be dipping a little bit into magic and we're going to have almost no money, so cyberware is likely not going to be something we can get much of at all.

Originally in Shadowrun, there were two options for magic: hermetic mage or shaman. Since the game's introduction they've added more traditions such as psychics, Christian, Norse, Shinto, and so on, but those are all variations of the basic magician. The adept was introduced in either the 2nd or 3rd edition. These were very much in the vein of Wu Xia or ninja movie martial artists with mystical techniques granting them incredible abilities. Later, they introduced the Mystic Adept as a sort of crossover between magicians and adepts. The most recent introduction to the magical sphere is the technomancer who basically does with magic what deckers and riggers do with tech.

Mystic adepts are regarded by some parts of the Shadowrun fandom as being a bit overpowered for having access to powers, spells, and summoning. However, in my experience they are very hard to run efficiently and will typically underperform compared to full adepts or full magicians. Given that full adepts are a sort of hybrid that is usually not quite the combat monster that a cybered up samurai is but can sometimes draw less attention due to having no visible enhancements. The mystic adept is a character that can be useful in a lot of ways but is rarely the driving force of a crew. The one I played ended up being the crew face primarily.

Character creation in Shadowrun has a large number of variations. There's a point-buy system where you are given a mass of karma to buy your stats up individually as you would in Hero System. There's also a lifepath system similar to what Star Trek Adventures uses. These two systems are found in an expansion of the game called Run Faster. The default system in the core book uses a Priority Table and is one of the few times I have seen this codified so formally. In Hero System you can find a table that gives suggested point distributions for characteristic-based, power-based, and skill-based characters, but that is entirely optional. If you opt for the priority system in Shadowrun, you aren't able to tweak things from one category into another if you go a little over or find yourself a little under.

There are five categories of character features: Metatype, your race; Attributes; Magic or Resonance; Skills; and Resources. These five categories are assigned a priority ranging from A, highest, to E, lowest. For example, if you want to be a troll you will have to rank Metatype at least at B and if you don't plan to have any magic at all, you would rank Magic at E. Once you have these priorities set, you begin to address each of the categories and fill in your character details for each category. Ranking your metatype at a higher priority than the metatype you choose grants you more starting Edge.

Outside the issue of the five categories you have a set pool of Karma, which is the experience of the game, that you start with and can be used to tweak your character some more. This includes the purchase of Qualities. Qualities are like the Advantages and Disadvantages of Legend of Five Rings. Negative Qualities introduce something that is problematic for your character and thus provide extra karma for you to spend. Positive Qualities give you an extra advantage that makes your character interact differently with the systems than other characters do.

We are also going to look into the creation of a changeling, someone affected by a phenomena referred to as SURGE where they've acquired unusual mutations due to exposure to wild magic. This is where we are going to build our gorgon's hair and such. There are three classes of changeling with three different karma costs based on how much control you, the player, get over the characteristics the SURGE gave you. For Class I you have totally random qualities and it costs 10 karma. For Class II you choose the positive qualities and the negative qualities are random. This costs 15 karma. We're likely going to be going with Class III for 30 karma and total control over the result. When you select SURGE qualities, you must have an equal value of positive and negative points and cannot have more than 30 points in either. You can have a discrepancy of 1 point higher on the Positive side, but will have to pay for it with your remaining karma.

You'll find that Shadowrun does a lot making you pay for the concept you want to play. There are a number of metavariants, unusual versions of orcs and elves, that have a higher Karma cost to create but which don't have mechanics to justify those increased Karma costs. I personally do not agree with this design choice as it feels punitive rather than enhancing setting flavor, which is what I assume they were going for. I have a couple of blog posts where I discuss my personal disagreement with this design choice so I won't go into it further here.

The last thing you do with character creation, as with most games, is to fill in the final derived characteristics and then provide some background fluff.

Note that there is a Petrify spell, but I decided that the Petrify bit was secondary to the overall theme of the Gorgon, as I have done in some of my other analyses. The deciding factor was that Mystic Adept was just to difficult to make into an efficient character.

Gorgon Archer - Priority System

Priorities: Attributes: A, Magic: B, Skills: C, Metatype D, Resources: E

Metatype: Human

Body: 3 
Agility: 5/6 (Improved Agility)
Reaction: 6/8 (Improved Reflexes)
Strength: 4
Willpower: 4
Logic: 3
Intuition: 5
Charisma:  2
Edge: 4
Magic: 6 
Essence: 6

Initiative: 13+3d6 (Improved Reflexes)

Physical Limit: 6/7 (Improved Potential)
Mental Limit: 5
Social Limit: 5

Physical Boxes: 10
Stun Boxes: 10

Magic: Adept

Adept Powers (6 pts): Improved Reflexes 2 (2.5), Enhanced Accuracy: Archery (0.25), Combat Sense 2 (1), Improved Potential: Physical (1), Improved Physical Attribute: Agility 1 (1), Danger Sense 1 (0.25), Improved Ability: Archery 1 (Mentor Bonus)

Positive Qualities: SURGE Class III, Mentor Spirit: Wise Warrior, Aptitude: Archery
Negative Qualities: Bad Rep (7), Insomnia (10), Social Stress: Crowds (8)

SURGE Positive Qualities: Fangs (4), Natural Venom: Moderate, Injected (5), Low-Light Vision (4)
SURGE Negative Qualities: Unusual Hair (3), Scales (5), Critter Spook (5)

Arcana 2
Archery: 7/8 (Improved Ability, Aptitude)
Intimidation: 3

Athletics Skill Group
Gymnastics 5
Running 4

Close Combat Skill Group
Unarmed 3

Influence Skill Group
Negotiation 1

Outdoor Skill Group
Navigation 2
Survival 2
Tracking 2

Stealth Skill Group
Palming 2
Sneaking 5

Knowledge Skills:
Magical Theory 3
20th Century Action Movies 2

Greek N
English 5
Japanese 4
Dakota 4

Contacts: Fixer (Loyalty 3, Connection 3)

Gear: Bow Rating 4 - Accuracy: 7 (Enhance Accuracy), Damage: 6P, AP -1, 40 Arrows
Urban Explorer Jumpsuit: Armor Rating 9

Lifestyle: Low (2 months)

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